The idea for this site goes back to a video of Hillary Clinton I posted on social media during the feverish Summer of 2016. The campaigns were already heated and everyone you know had an opinion about the candidates. The video featured Clinton was making her much-talked-about foreign policy speech. Trump was an easy target, he had a bad week with the press and foreign policy is amongst his weak points. In the video she stated some basic ideas like what it may feel like to have President Trump in the situation room, whether you love her or hate her, a mental image that should be considered.
The first comment pops up after 1 minute, “She’s just gonna lie to everyone.” I love this challenge, when you can sense something’s been in the air, a statement that’s gone on for so long it’s been accepted as some kind of scientific fact, a law like gravity, like fluid dynamics. No evidence needed. Hillary Lies. I’m not sure where I heard it but as sure as this apple will fall on the floor, she’s crooked. I push, “back this up with 3 verifiable facts.”
Full disclosure, I love to debate. To say I enjoy a heated discussion would be an understatement. I love watching people defend their positions, to draw out the picture that makes me understand why they like or hate a politician, support or condemn a law. I genuinely enjoy it because I’m forced to empathize with another point of view, then to do my own research and maybe learn something, maybe even change sides. I have listened with patient understanding to the reasons my mother supported Donald Trump, I understand emotionally why she believes he’ll be a good president and I get, within the diet of news and information she has, why she arrived at that conclusion.
Back to my challenge to the Facebooker, the response came almost immediately in the form of a video link with the intriguing title “Jon Stewart Comes Out of Retirement to Destroy Clinton” (holy SHIT had I been missing Jon Stewart hosting the daily show during Trevor Noah’s Summer absence??) I watch, excitedly. The video starts with a montage of statements from the media insulting Bernie Sanders’ bid for president. Followed by a few clips of Stewart speaking positively about the candidate, then negatively about Clinton. But don’t sit down for a TDS binge-watch kids, this footage is from 2015. Then a short statement from Stewart about not liking Clinton in another interview. Then it sort of gets a little thin from there: chopped-up 3 and 4 second interview clips that make Clinton appear to be at odds with supposed supporters or at odds with herself (I concede that the original Hillary video I posted is a lot of the same tricks, a Trump supporter might feel the same anger.) The clips of her are garnered from footage sometimes decades apart. Followed by some questionable Pipeline facts from Breitbart alum Peter Schweizer. Then my favorite piece, clips of Clinton giving a speech with an animated dollar amount counting up, I guess for effect? The video is a disappointing mix of out-of-context clips and home-made graphics. Even the title is infuriating click-bait.
I feel an old frustration: “I’m not accepting links to other Facebook posts, comedy sketches, memes, or YouTube videos as verifiable documented evidence.” I want to see proof– from a news source of record– that Clinton is just gonna lie her lying ass off every second of her lying presidency. That’s what you said, now show me. Hell I know it’s out there, I could pull the research for you! But you, you expressed this opinion, you made a broad statement, your vote counts as much as mine, you tell me with what knowledge you came to know this.
I fear that we have lost the ability to question where our information comes from. I’m afraid every year we become more willing to absorb “news” from Infotainment Sources, hang out on websites and radio that only caters to our opinions, and finally share memes and posts that assert only these ideas back in a quippy punchline. It also creates a sidebar discussion consisting of mean-girl politics, I’m sure you remember, “Obama looks like a robot when he uses a teleprompter!” and this week’s “Hillary wore an expensive jacket at a speech about income!”
This echo-chamber cycle ensures you stay planted firmly inside of your own viewpoint. You are not required to produce proof of a statement because everyone already knows it’s a fact, right? I wonder what it was like a few decades ago when your news sources were local and national papers and a few nightly news broadcasts? You’d also have discussions with your friends and neighbors where you’d get additional information without the ability to hurl declarations in all-caps, face-to-face talks where you had to defend your opinion in real time, talks that didn’t have the position-strengthening boost of web anonymity or abruptly leaving a post.
As media multiplied exponentially with cable news, websites, social media and podcasts, we’ve created a never-ending stream of ‘news’ sources that can cater to our exact political leanings, where our critical-thinking muscle is not exercised because no information we disagree with is ever presented. We’ve also increased the vast sea of text and media from which we can cherry-pick short snippets, to be edited together without context and shared on social media as fact. It’s shared as ‘news’ within our narrow group of peer-agreers, critics need not apply.
My challenger’s response? “Keep the wool pulled over your eyes. It’s not a comedy sketch.” A total denial that the video is Fake News because it was in line with his beliefs.
I don’t know what the future of journalism is, but we’ve got to start asking more questions. Social media is no place for real debate and we try (try) to see other peoples’ side while conveying that there are other facts they may consider. But for me, one thing will still make me lose my ever-loving shit every time. One question will start fights, lose friends, and slam doors but you need to ask your friends and family, you need to ask yourself: “Pal, can you back that up with some facts?”